I wouldn’t say I’m mad.
I wouldn’t say that I’m stupid. Having said that, I would profess to being totally sane or intelligent either.
All four assertions are a matter of conjecture for others to decide but the point I’m making is that insanity and a lack of intellect isn’t why I became a goalkeeper.
I can’t remember ever there ever being a decision to be made, it was just a calling. It was just as if a horn had been sounded from GK HQ, like a dog whistle that only a select few can hear.
I replaced the word “lucky” with “select” in that sentence because there were times when it definitely felt like a curse.
What I’m saying is that you don’t have to be crazy, daft or insanely brave to be a goalkeeper. The truth is that you rarely have time to think about your actions.
Instinct takes over. One minute you’re making perfectly reasonable decisions and before you know it you’re live on TV playing in a six-a-side tournament in Copenhagen and you’re lying on the deck outside you area with your head a foot away from a ball that’s about to be smashed into the goal by an on-rushing striker.
Then somewhere from deep inside your consciousness causes you to throw your head at the ball and find out that your eye socket just happens to be the perfect fit for the toe-end of the striker’s trainers. A remarkable coincidence.
Whenever I see a nasty looking incident on TV and listen to people like myself haranguing about the culprit of a bad challenge I slip myself back into Ibrox in the January of 2001.
Rangers Dutch left back, Arthur Numan, played a long ball over the top of our defence on the halfway line and I charged 15 yards out of box to launch myself at the ball as if I’d been shot out of a cannon. Like a human cannonball without the crash helmet.
In the split seconds before I reached the ball, I noticed a blue flash in the distance beyond my focus of the ball.
If this was a film or a clip of a TV series, at this point the frame would be frozen and a narrator would say “It was at this moment David knew . . . he should’ve become a striker.”.
Unless you’re actually in the position, mid-air and on the flight path to inevitable injury, you don’t know what your instincts are or how you’d react.
You might flinch and turn your head away. You might even have enough time to abort the challenge and then moan to the ref about the height of the flailing boot that almost took your head off.
Or you can just close your eyes and wish for the best. I took that last option and my nose and my left eye didn’t thank me for it.
As it transpired, Fernando Ricksen had broke from midfield to latch on to Numan’s pass and as he saw me approach, he lifted his boot so that my face connected with its sole.
The result was a broken nose, double vision and because all our subs had been used, my last 20 minutes was spent praying the ball didn’t come near me.
You see, if you had the chance reason with your decision, you’d probably think again and pull out.
Looking at it from another point of view, once you’ve put your head in the mouth of the lion, so to speak, you might expect the striker to pull out of the shot in fear of harming you. But he doesn’t and I wouldn’t expect him to either.
Did I think Ricksen was making a genuine attempt to win the ball or was it an effort to decapitate me? I honestly think it was a bit of both.
But through my still blurred vision and my nose broken and splattered across my face, when asked by a journalist if there was any malice in the challenge, without hesitation I said “No.”. Why? Because getting hurt and inflicting injury is part of being a footballer.
You see, there are parts of football that aren’t lucid, not in a logical sense of the word.
There are things you do inside those 90 minutes that don’t make rational sense. Competition, pressure and pride can do that to you.
You get caught up in emotion and do things that you wouldn’t dream of ordinarily.
So with this in mind, one of the acceptances you make upon entering the field of play is there is a strong possibility you might get hurt. Pain becomes your friend.
In those 1 v 1 battles it’s not just about what you do with the ball but with your body too.
If you can come out on top technically and physically, then you win the mental war as well.
But even if your opponent gets the better of you with the ball, there is a way, within acceptable boundaries, to still win the war of body and mind through physical contact.
Elsewhere this week, I acknowledged Tyrone Mings saw his chance to assert some kind of authority over Zlatan Ibrahimovic in this manner.
Okay, I admit standing on someone’s head is an extreme way of going about it but your thought process doesn’t always make sense in the heat of a game.
We as players don’t moan about it though, so nobody else should either and both players took their shots on the chin, literally, and that’s the way it should be.
As for my broken nose, it was fine until the following week at Fir Park.
I’d decided to wear a new pair of gloves I hadn’t had the chance to wear in training because I’d been waiting for my vision to come back.
As luck would have it, it returned the day before.
Or that’s what I thought until Jim Leighton volleyed the first ball of my warm-up at me and the ball slipped straight though my hands and hit me square on the nose again.
There was blood everywhere and in need of being clicked back into place again as it had been the week before proving I was more Mr Bean than Buffon.
The narrator was right though. I should’ve been a striker.